Author: Murray Bookchin
Title: Re-enchanting Humanity
Subtitle: A Defense of the Human Spirit Against Antihumanism, Misanthropy, Mysticism, and Primitivism
Source: Retrieved on 2019-09-19 from Internet Archive
”For my dear friend of fifty years, David Eisen A caveat to the reader
Today, when environmentalism is under assault by Republican reactionaries in the United States, Tory reactionaries in Britain, and apologists for corporate interests everywhere, I wish to reiterate my emphatic support for all environmentalist tendencies that seek to preserve biotic diversity, clean air and water, chemically untainted foods, and wilderness areas.
Much of my life — some forty years as a writer, lecturer, and activist in various movements — has been and remains assiduously committed to these environmental goals. It would be gross demagoguery for antihumanists, misanthropes, and primivitists — who in my view are seriously damaging the environmental cause — to identify their own regressive ideas with ecology as such and to challenge any criticism of them as an endeavor to subvert the ecology movement.
I find it necessary to make this statement to the reader because some years ago, a leading light in the deep ecology tendency scandalously accused me in The Progressive of capitulating to reactionaries in the United States after I criticized his ecomystical views as deleterious to the environmental movement. Nor is he the only one who has done so over the years in one way or another.
I have encountered such cynical behavior only once before in my lifetime — during the 1930s, when devotees of Stalin’s version of Communism designated all of their critics as ‘fascists’ and worse for daring to challenge their policies. Such behavior should be severely reproved as cynical and demagogic if
environmentalists are not to surrender the moral integrity that they claim for themselves and their ideas. What is at stake in such rhetorical charges is whether dissenting views within the ecology movement (which should be encouraged if the movement is to advance) are even possible or whether criticisms that concern the welfare of that movement can be intelligently explored on their own terms.
Having expressed this concern, it would be foolhardy to ignore the tendency of antihumanism (particularly trends like sociobiology, Malthusianism, and deep ecology) to feed into the politically charged social Darwinism that is very much abroad today. The animalization of humanity that I believe these trends foster, their regressive absorption of major social concerns into biology — be they
expressed in terms of genetics, demographics, or biocentrism — is now being stridently echoed by reactionary legislators who use zoological reductionism as an ideological weapon for waging war on the poor, the underprivileged, and the helpless. Thus in debates in the US Congress on reducing welfare benefits to the needy, a legislator from Florida who opposes such aid is reported to have held up a sign that said ‘Do Not Feed the Alligators’ and noted, ‘We post these warnings because unnatural [sic!] feeding and artificial [sic!] care creates dependency’. A legislator from Wyoming is reported to have drawn ‘a similar parallel with wolves’ (Robin Toner, Resolved: no more bleeding hearts, New York Times, ‘Week in Review’ section, July 16, 1995).
In my view, this kind of ‘natural law’ mentality, directed overwhelmingly against the poor and underprivileged who desperately need material assistance, can very easily be derived from ideologies that reduce human attibutes to the interplay of genes, to a demographics based on the behaviour of fruit flies, and to a biocentrism that renders human beings interchangable with alligators and wolves in terms of their ‘intrinsic worth’ . How precariously close these variants of antihumanism are to the lethal social ideologies that swept through Europe and America in the 1920s and 1930s, I shall leave it to the informed reader to judge”.
May 1995 Acknowledgments
”I cannot sufficiently thank my companion and colleague, Janet Biehl, for her scrupulous reading and copyediting of this book, as well as for her advice at
every point in its preparation and her assistance in researching material for certain chapters. Her own unfinished book on deep ecology was one of the major sources for material on which I relied in writing my chapter on ecomysticism. To my editor, Steve Cook of Cassell, I owe a genuine debt for encouraging me throughout the preparation of the manuscript and for his patience in delays that were caused by ill health. I would also like to thank Steven Best and Richard Wolin for reading and advising me on my chapter on postmodernism. Their own work in this area has been immensely stimulating and deserves the widest reading public.
For the rest, the views I express in the following pages are entirely my own, and I alone must claim responsibility for any defects the book may contain. These
views have been in the making for years and reflect changing polemical emphases in my writings that have emerged over time.
This book deals with one of the most troubling conditions that afflicts society at the present time: a sweeping failure of nerve. I am speaking of a deep-seated cultural malaise that reflects a waning belief in our species’ creative abilities. In a very real sense, we seem to be afraid of ourselves — of our uniquely human attributes. We seem to be suffering from a decline in human self-confidence and in our ability to create ethically meaningful lives that enrich humanity and the non-human world”.